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Steveski

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Everything posted by Steveski

  1. Whoops...as I posted to Brian's comment, I did look around for the right place to put this and ended up in the main thread...then I didn't see it this AM and thought it hadn't been posted right the first time, so I did it again. Low tech guy in a high tech world, I guess.
  2. Mea culpa...I actually did wander around the site to figure out where to post this(the first time) and ended up in the main thread. Then when I didn't' see it this morning, I figured I must have posted it wrong so did it again. Sorry. Oh and btw...GREAT interview with Gary Vay Ner Chuk!
  3. The Wall Street Journal's Eric Felten published a story on Absinthe in the Weekend edition May 9/10. It included a color photo of a drinkn on the front page, and a story and some product reviews inside. The online edition featured the story on the home page as well. He's definitely not a fan but I think the story is going to help the category grow. For those who don't know me, I represent Mata Hari in the U.S., which Eric gave top (dubious) honors. Others rated include Lucid, Pernod, Kübler, and Le Tourment Vert. Hyperlink above and here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124182520537702421.html
  4. OK, so I'm a bit biased, but Eric Felten authored a great story in the WSJ Saturday, May 9 which had a color photo on the cover page of the print edition, and also on the home page of the online edition. Clearly, he's not a fan, but I think the publicity will do a world of good for the category. Our past experience is that when he writes a story, things sell in stores across the country. Eric reviewed Mata Hari, Lucid, Pernod, Kübler and Le Tourment Vert. The article can be viewed at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1241825205....html#printMode
  5. Paul, you're fast! I had just finished my Sunday Times and was gonna post this for the community only to find it already had generated 20+ comments. Definitely a biased article written by someone who sat down at the typewriter with a granite block on his shoulder. What was his problem? Surpirsed that Absinthe tasted like licorice...that's liking being suprised that Kahlua tastes like coffee. But instead of trashing him in our little world, anyone have any ideas on how best to educate him on another point of view? Paul, from a newspaperman's point of view...how can we reach out to him to do a follow up?
  6. Your retailer has a book called the Maryland Beverage Journal which lists all the distributors and all the brands they carry. He probably keeps it next to his cash register. He should be able...and happy...to look it up for you. If he doesn't have the book, then I would suggest going to another retailer and asking them. i tried to look it up for you but I only have access to the CT beverage book. Good luck.
  7. Thanks all for your comments. I'm just sharing the info (and yes, would have posted it no matter what Mata Hari scored). We can all draw our own conclusions. But, the real significance is not what we think in this forum, it's the commercial impact the BTI results have out in the trade and on consumers. While you may criticise the organization, the process or the conclusions, the reality is it is taken quite seriously by the trade and consumers. That's why I made the point of Grey Goose...we always pooh-poohed the fact that they made their name on a now-ten-year-old event that hails a new king every year. Yet the reality is Sidney Frank sold the company for $2B (that's billion), and the foundation for that was the BTI review. So, you can expect us to be promoting the review results for Mata Hari for one simple and compelling reason...it means something to consumers. It's a credible third-party validation and quality cue to the consumer and a reason to reach out and select that brand. But,Hiram, you ask some good questions, so I'm going to forward this thread to Jerald O'Kennard and Catrina Cerny who run the show at BTI and let them respond...and I'll post it here. *click* I don't mean to be a jerk, Steve, but this reminds me of those poetry contests I won a bunch of when I was 17.
  8. The Beverage Tasting Institute just announced the results of their first ever Absinthe review: Here are the results 94: Pernod -Gold Medal 93: Mata Hari -Gold Medal 92: Kübler-Gold Medal 91: Obsello- Gold Medal 90 Libertine-Gold Medal 90 Australian Vodka Co. Moulin Rooz-Gold Medal 82: La Muse Verte- Bronze Medal A couple of observations for those not familiar with BTI reviews. The category they put absinthe in was Liqueur Schnapps. Ratings matter more than medals. And while there probably isn't a statistical difference in one rating point, the numbers are meaningful to consumers...90+ in the wine industry (usually associated with Robert Parker or Wine Spectator) can turn a brand from a nobody to a global superstar. Also It may seem that they give out a lot of gold medals, but it's more a case of not getting a gold than getting one. (e.g. SFWSC gives out "Double Golds"!) I don't know how many or what other Absinthe's were entered, they don't report that. And some more background, it was a BTI top award that Grey Goose won back in 1998 that established and validated Grey Goose's positioning as "The World's Best Tasting Vodka" and they've stuck with it every since event though they've been topped by other vodka's in subsequent years. (Don't know if they ever entered again...I wouldn't...how can you do better than best?)
  9. Again, some good points that I've addressed on the site. I think the wording on the ban is sufficiently clear. One thing we've learned definitively through our quant and qual research on other brands is consumers don't want chemistry lessons or legal interpretations...just simple statements that answer the most common questions I've found consumers are asking...is it "real", and is it legal to buy it.
  10. Very interesting discussion. My/our point of view coincides with PeterL and Doctor Love (great screen name btw). One of the first things I do when developing a website is a very rigorous keyword review. "Thujone" came up second on the list after several spelling variants of Absinthe. So we know for a fact that people are frequently using the word "Thujone" in search queries, therefore it should be included in the copy, becaue that's how Google will know a given website is relevant to the search. As to the issue of how it's referred to, I agree with the comments that it should be presented as a factual statement. I've made some additional changes to the site that I think address that. I dunno about that. These are American consumers, they haven't been treated to as much of the thujone hype as the European markets. It doesn't do anything at these concentrations, so what difference does it make how much of it is in Mata Hari? Why not list all the other ingredients then as well? Now obviously plenty of potential consumers of absinthe in America still have misconceptions about absinthe making you trip ballz, and certainly I think it's important to dispell that myth, but I'd consider that at this point in time mentioning thujone on the site is going lend more credibility to it having some effect, even if it's done as a straight statement of fact. But you're probably right, it needs to be a comprehensive website, maybe my objection is more about the fact that it's mentioned so prominently in the first paragraph on the front page. In other words, instead of this: Made with Grande Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) which is the source of thujone, the component of controversy which was the reason for the ban on Absinthe in the U.S. and Europe in the last century. I think it's more effective to have this: Mata Hari is made with Grande Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), the component of controversy which was the reason for the ban on Absinthe in the U.S. and Europe in the last century. I'd also follow it up with something like: Today, science has shown that having Grande Wormwood in absinthe is not dangerous or hallucinogenic, and we are allowed to once again enjoy this famous beverage.
  11. Thanks for your comments. I think about websites this way...you never get it right, you just keep getting it better. So this is a work in progress. I'm making some changes that address these concerns. In some parts of the site, you discuss how thujone doesn't have the 'effects' that people think it does, but you also have smatterings of passages such as the above, which indicates that there may indeed be something else that is unspoken. In the above passage, you kind of shoot yourself in the foot. In the first passage I quoted, you mentioned that there need to be a lot of wormwood in an absinthe to make it 'potent', but then in the above passage you downplay your absinthe, representing it as one that doesn't have much at all. So, all in all, the site basically keeps saying 'Yes it is. No it's not. Yes it is. No it's not.' But again, it's definitely an improvement. The removal of the fire ritual was a welcome change. I hope to see further improvements!
  12. Ok guys, we've set up a new Mata Hari website for the U.S. www.AbsintheMataHari.com that adheres to the social responsibility guidelines we've been discussing. It's still a work in progress, but I'd welcome feedback from the group. On a related subject, I had an interesting conversation with Alan Moss of La Clandestine...we were talking about how the manufacturers should consider getting together to promote the category. What stimualated the idea was how the gin folks got together for the Juniperlooza session at TOTC. I don't have specific ideas yet, but did want to get some feedback.
  13. Reuter's ran a story datelined Aug. 1. Here's the link Reuters Aug 1 story on Absinthe. Brian Robinson is quoted
  14. Hey, I thought you were going to call? Anyway, why don't we set up a conference call with you, me and Gwydion to discuss this further...nights, weekends all work for me. Steve
  15. Ted: We've yet to meet and I look forward to it. As I noted in my original post, and you saw on second reading, I acknowledged that there are things in the marketplace re: Mata Hari that violate the policy. What you're referring to is on the Mata Hari Austrian website managed by the brand owner, Gerry Fischer. We are in the process of setting up a U.S. focused site for Mata Hari where these issues will be corrected. I'll speak to Gerry about how he addresses these things on his site. My point still stands though...as manufacturers we need to take the lead here. And I'd welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with you and will give a call to make that happen. Best, Steve A sincere effort to promote responsible marketing must begin in one's own backyard. From the Mata Hari website: Mata Hari Webpage (1) "one of the strongest traditional absinthes" (2) Mata Hari is made of the finest herbs, above all Wormwood and Salvia (3) Highest legal level of Thujon & Absinthin (4) The fire ritual as the "Bohemian Method" (1) "Strongest" is an obvious reference to "Thujone & Absinthin". (2) This statement, which also appears on the product label, contains an oblique reference to Salvia divinorum (a hallucinogen). "Salvia" is the common term for S. divinorum for both Europeans and Americans, and in common language, refers to nothing else. (3) Aside from the claim of thujone content, the claim of high 'absinthin' is a bit confusing since a major purpose of distillation in this context is to exclude absinthin. For those who are wondering, absinthin is the extremely bitter principle of A. absinthium, which is undesirable in the finished product.
  16. I returned from TOTC with my eyes opened on issues of social responsibility and the need for all of us involved in marketing absinthe to get together and regulate ourselves before we kill the proverbial goose that might lay the golden egg. We, the marketers of Absinthe Mata Hari in the U.S. (Brand Action Team, Beacon Beverage Imports, Fischer Schnaps, Muso Entertainment) have established a social responsibility policy. To wit, we are not going to promote things about the category, the brand, usage and consumption that would support or lead to misuse. (And I acknowledge there are some things out in the marketplace that my violate this policy, but we're changing our approach as we go forward). Specifically not to be promoted are the fire ritual, potency of the product (alcohol or thujone content), purported hallucinogenic effects or drinking the product straight. That's not to say that we can't talk about these things. The facts of absinthe's proof level, the history of publicity surrounding thujone and mind altering effects et al. are part of the category story. They can and should be referenced in that regard but not promoted or celebrated. I recognize that's a fine line, but it's sort of like the Supreme Court's definition of pornography...you know it when you see it. By the same token, we need to acknowledge that there is going to be consumption in ways we'd rather not see. People are going todrink it straight, they are going to do shots, and mix it with Jagermeister, Red bull etc. and they will try out the fire ritual. Our job is not to prevent that per se, but rather to promote responsible consumption and marketing. So I suggest we set up some sort of guidance council perhaps under the aegis of WS or in conjunction with an industry trade magazine or group with the goal of promoting responsible consumption and marketing. What do you think?
  17. Camper English of alcademics fame had a 3 page article run in Patterson's Tasting Panel (the old Patterson's Bev. Journal newly-taken-over by Anthony Dias Blue et al). I'm not sure how to post it here, so if you have any reccos, let me know. See you all in N'awlin's! steveski
  18. I hosted a booth at the Distil show in London last month where buyers from around the world come to look at what's new in the world of spirits. We presented Mata Hari as well as the range of other Alt Wiener Schnapsmuseum (aka Fischer Schnaps) products including Montmartre and Mystique. I ran into George Rowley whom I met at the U.S. Drinks Conference last year and who claims (and rightly deserves) credit for the renaissance of Absinthe in the U.K. and Europe. George put on a very informative seminar at Distil on Absinthe featuring (perhaps a bit too much focus on) La Fee Absinthes. And what I realized was twofold. One, most people even in the industry don't have much of a clue about Absinthe, what is "real", what are the different styles, alcohol levels, history, etc. And second, those that are informed tend to bring a biased point of view to the party. Certainly understandable...I'll be the first to say I'm biased as well. But that bias does tend to color (pardon the pun) how they view the subject. And the informed types fall into two basic categories as well: Purists who hold to a conservative, one might even say reactionary, perspective, and those with a contemporary point of view...sort of "that was then, this is now." I believe that nobody is "right"...at the end of the day, Absinthe is nothing more than an alcoholic beverage with a colorful history. So the whole issue of what is "real" Absinthe is analogous to the Martini. When first created it was a mix of gin and vermouth. But by the 1970's the Martini had morphed into a vodka-based cocktail. And now we have appletini's, chocotini's and more variations of flavors and ingredients. So you can ask the authentic question here as well…Are they real martinis? To the purist, perhaps no. But to the consumer who orders them...most definitively YES! As Tony Abou-Ganim and Dale DeGroff mentioned in a seminar I went to recently...if it's served in a martini glass (more properly called a cocktail glass), then it's a Martini...no matter what's in it…that's the way its perceived by consumers, so therefore that's the reality. In fact, take the argument one step further. Historically vodka used to be a very rough spirit so it was traditionally flavored with something to cover up the roughness...buffalograss in Poland, Caraway seed in Scandinavia. Then it ultimately evolved into the spirit we know today as defined by the TTB as "neutral spirits so distilled or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color." Now all the manufacturers are becoming ever more innovative with ever more esoteric flavors and combinations. So, the question might also be asked..."Is flavored vodka authentic ?" To the distributor who asked us to find him an "authentic" absinthe, to him the word meant that it had some historical roots. We did explain that it was a different style than the more popular French style, but was legitimately old...we had the 1881 recipe to document that. The bottom line is as suppliers and marketers of spirits we are in business to sell stuff. If we sell stuff consumers like, we will sell more than the stuff they don't like so much. And consumers like the Bohemian style. While WS members may feel that making cocktails with Absinthe is wrong, the reality is, that's what's going to happen in the marketplace. We're already seeing it with A Bomb's, mixed with Red Bull etc. Granted that's not the authentic way to drink Absinthe, but it is what the market wants. And at the end of the day, marketing is all about responding to consumers needs and wants.
  19. A couple of welcoming posts to my newcomer introduction mentioned WS members would be interested in following the process of how a brand gets developed. I'm going to use this thread to shed some light on it. I'll cover the process, but if readers have any specific questions I'd be happy to answer them. But one note of caution...I read the thread of the conversation with Ted Breaux and hope that the tone and manner of this discussion stays in a positive tone...I'm offering up this insider's view simply because I think the membership would appreciate it. Obviously I'm advocating the brand, but I recognize there are lots of different people with lots of different interests in regard to Absinthe. Ours is reaching out to the rank and file of cocktail consumers who see this category as something new, fun and the mythology paints it as maybe just a little bit dangerous. FYI, Rick Dobbs at Martini Groove ran a piece on Mata Hari yesterday and I posted a short comment on how we first found out about the brand, but I'll add a little more flesh to the story here. It was really serendipity. We were over in Vienna Austria visiting another client. Our host was acting as tour guide showing off the city and he had a guidebook that had the Alt Wiener Schnapsmuseum listed (note in Austrian Schnaps is spelled with only one "p"). Seemed a bit more interesting that an art museum so we said sure and off we went. The museum is actually the Fischer Family distillery built in 1875. It was bombed by the Allies at the end of WWII because it's adjacent to railroad tracks. But the building survived and in fact the office is still intact as it was in the early 1900's, and Gerry Fischer the 5th generation and current owner pointed out on the tour that the original cash register is still there and it's never needed any service. Anyway, Gerry gives the tour and at the end he pulls out a bottle of Absinthe! We had been asked by a distributor friend of ours in the U.S. to help them find an "authentic" Absinthe, so we stayed after the tour to talk to Gerry. ( I know...the subject of "authenticity" is something of great interest...I'll post my POV on that on this site soon, but if you want to get a sneak peak, I posted a comment on my blog at www.thebrandactionteam.blogspot.com) Net net, we took some samples home of all his Absinthe products (he has Montmartre, La Gruen Fee, Mystiq and a few others, as well as lots of recipes from his Great Great Grandpa's archives). We then presented Gerry's absinthes as well as some others we'd found from the UK, France, Italy, Czech republic etc. to the distributor and they really liked the Mata Hari. There were two main reasons why they chose it. One was the history of the distillery and the recipe dating to 1881. The second was they felt it tasted better and would be an easier sell than the more traditional flavor profiles...the lower licorice taste which makes it mixable, but it still louches because there is in fact aniseed in the ingredients...as well as Grand Wormwood of course. So we met with Gerry a couple of times the next month while he was in the U.S.on vacation (again, serendipity...he was in FL to visit friends and play golf the same winter weekend I was), and came to an agreement on the product. We put the liquid into the TTB approval process via MHW, got that approved pretty quickly and then got final approval on the label after a few go rounds. While this was going on, our friend Dave Stringfellow at Beacon Beverage Imports was out taking orders from the first distributor in their states, and was pitching the product to distributors in the rest of the country. As many of you know, getting a brand into the U.S. market has gotten harder and harder because of distributor consolidation. They just don't want to take on unproven brands from small companies. But in the case of Mata Hari, we were overwhelmed by the response. The category is exploding, there aren't many brands out there (by our count, Mata Hari is 7th in the market after Lucid, Kübler, St. George, Absente, Mythe and La Fee.), and distributors are hungry for brands if they don't already have one. We've even gotten cold calls from distributors who found out about us and want the product, and that rarely happens anymore. So we've got distribution set up in the middle of the country from Texas up through IN, as well as NY, NJ, CT, FL, GA and a few control states like MI and OH are in process. And a note to our friend from Maine...yes, it's on the list, but lower down...we hope to be there by Q4 2007 with a little bit of luck. (My wife's family lives up there so it's a personal priority for me.) Once we got TTB approval, Gerry went into production mode (I'll post a picture of him at the distillery if I can figure out how to do it), made the product, bottled, labeled, packed it and put it on a container. It's on the water on the way to NY as I write this and we hope to have it in country by end of June, and at retail by July. So from a chance meeting in early Feb in Vienna, we've taken the brand from concept to reality in just four months. For anyone who knows anything about the normally glacial process for bringing in a new brand from an unknown company in a category that's under extreme scrutiny by the powers-that-be...that's pretty incredible. OK, so that's the first post, I'll have more on how we plan on promoting the product in subsequent posts. Also, I and Sam Harrigan, our blogmeister will be at TOTC and welcome the opportunity to meet you all face to face....it'll be easy to spot Sam...she's short. Best regards, Steve
  20. Yes, I'll be at TOTC and look forward to meeting you and the rest of the WS folks. Is there some sort of bulletin board to find out who all is going? Not surprisingly, said seminars are being led by members of this forum. There's probably close to 15 of us who will be in NO attending. Will you be there too? I'd love to catch up with you and have a few drinks! PM me. Lastly, I'm taking it that the new formulation is markedly different than the old one? The old version even said on the bottle that it doesn't have anise. If the new one does, I'm even more interested in checking it out.
  21. Introducing any alcoholic beverage in the U.S. ultimately is controlled initially by where you can get distribution. WhAs you well know, Maine is a control state, and tends to be lower on the list of priorities. Regarding e-commerce, recognize that's even more balkanized...there's a whole sublevel of what states have reciprocal shipping agreements with others (mostly in regards to wine, but it does affect spirits) that control who can sell and ship to where, from where. I'm pretty actively involved in looking at e-commerce solutions and was not aware of drinkupny...I'll have to check them out.
  22. You're quoting some of the promotional materials from the European product which is somewhat different from the U.S. formulation. But to your point, our focus in the U.S. will be on the product's mixability. It's what differentiates us from most of the other products on the market.
  23. Mata Hari does indeed contain aniseeed, and therefore does create the louche effect. The Mata Hari formula (though not the name) dates back to 1881...I've seen the original recipe. What Herr Fischer has found is that contemporary drinkers (meaning not necessarily Absinthe purists) in Europe gravitate toward the lower licorice flavor level specifically because it can be used in mixed drinks. On this side of the pond, we're finding that American drinkers often start their experience with Absinthe with the rituals, but that as it becomes more mainstream, it's also being incorporated into mainstream drinks...mixed with Red Bull, as a depth charge in beer, and also by mixologists and bartenders as a new but really old ingredient in classic and contemporary cocktails. There are in fact 3 seminars dedicated to Absinthe at the upcoming Tales of the Cocktail event to be held in New Orleans in July. I expect we'll hear lots more about how Absinthe is being used and promoted in the U.S. As to why I joined WS, it's because this site was one of the most useful that we found on the subject as we were learning about the category.
  24. I'm the guy who wrote the press release. What would you like to discuss? Steveski
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